A meeting in Far Rockaway last week highlighted some of the challenges the city's Economic Development Corporation (EDC) faces in implementing this plan.
The two-hour public meeting began with a presentation that updated residents on the implementation process of the citywide system.
“It's important for us to review exactly what is being proposed for 2017,” Congressman Gregory Meeks told the crowd.
EDC representatives Justine Johnson and Alexander Brady explained the particulars of the project.
“First and foremost, we want this to be a safe system,” said Johnson. “When we talk about safety, we talk about those who are operating the vessels, as well as riding the vessels.”
Under the proposal, by 2018 all five-boroughs will be connected by ferry. Initial routes in Astoria and the Rockaways should be operational in 2017.
Six routes will travel over 60 miles making approximately 4.6 million trips to 21 ferry landings annually. The estimated cost to build the system is $55 million.
The service will operate year-round and will cost $2.75 per trip with a free transfer to the bus or subway. Barges will be placed alongside existing esplanades, and include ticketing machines and some sort of shelter to protect riders from the elements.
“We are on a very aggressive timeline,” Johnson said. “So starting in , the Rockaways will be getting service.”
Johnson and Brady noted there are still many decisions to be made, so they were looking for input from future riders.
One of the reasons Rockaway initially lost ferry service was low ridership. Rockaway residents and elected officials said if the city takes their recommendations, that won't be the case this time around. The biggest hurdle is access to the proposed ferry landing at Beach 108th Street.
“If you wan't ridership, we can provide it,” Meeks said. “We just have to make sure that people have access and ability to get to it.”
Over a dozen young residents wearing matching Rockaway Youth Task Force shirts occupied the two front rows at the public meeting. Before the meeting started, one of the members of the group with attendees individually to urge them to support a shuttle that services the entire community.
Khaleel Anderson said that a shuttle that terminates at Beach 67th Street, as currently proposed, would not serve the community.
“I am advocating to have that shuttle bus extended further into the eastern end of the Rockaways,” Anderson said. “It will serve a lot more communities, particular communities of color who struggle to get to work and struggle for transportation alternatives.”
According to Anderson, extending the shuttle bus would give 75 percent of Rockaway residents ferry access compared to an estimated 20 percent that would be served by a shuttle that just goes from Beach 67th Street to Beach 108th Street.
That population is 74 percent black and Latino, as well as 53 percent low and moderate income.
Brady said that no decision has been made on the shuttle buses at this point, and the city is currently engaged in a study to determine how many stops the shuttle can make and how long of a route the time between ferries will allow.
Lew Simon, a longtime advocate for increased transportation in the community, also pushed to have shuttle access extend from one tip of the peninsula to the other.
“For this to be a home run, it's got to serve the whole peninsula,” Simon said. “From Atlantic Beach Bridge to the tip of Breezy Point.”
Philip McManus, a Rockaway resident and president of Queens Public Transit Committee, suggested a local ferry.
“I think the buses are good, but we also need that local ferry that goes from Far Rockaway and tries to get to as many communities as possible,” he said. “They could switch over to 108th Street as an express ferry. If you can do that, you'll guarantee ridership.”